Many people are familiar with the gatherings that happen on Remembrance Sunday and on Armistice Day [November 11th]. There are usually one or more Christian ministers present at these events, and in addition many churches hold special services. It is important to recognise that such events are not limited to one kind of church or even one faith.

Across the world, and indeed across time, people have found it helpful to gather after times of great loss of life. Sometimes that is as the result of war, or sometimes natural disaster or human tragedy.

Churches in the United Kingdom have played a part in shaping these rituals, especially since World War I, when many of the things that we now experience around Remembrance Sunday took shape.

Nationally there is an opportunity for people across the nation to join in remembering, as they wish. This includes the two minutes of silence on both Remembrance Sunday and Armistice Day itself.

At a local community level after World War I many villages including our own erected war memorials in public spaces. These are now the focus of gatherings to remember on Remembrance Sunday. In addition to these spaces there are also many memorial plaques in the communities to which those who died in war or tragedy belonged. It is not uncommon to find such plaques in factories, schools or sports clubs. We must also not forget that alongside the opportunity to gather with others and remember those who have died, individuals will remember those who have been part of their story, whether dying recently or long ago.

As Isaiah 2: 2 says “they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.” For me this expresses a clear sense of longing and hope for a time when God’s love and goodness will transform our world.

The following words are used at almost all Remembrance Services, and at Acts of Remembrance as well:

They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old; age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, we shall remember them.
Like the words of the Kohima Epitaph: –

When you go home tell them of us and say that for your tomorrow, we gave our today.

It is important to remind ourselves that these words of Remembrance are for absolutely everyone, not just those of the Christian faith but all faiths and to those of no faith. Young or old, rich, or poor we all share a common humanity, and we all suffer because of mankind’s capacity for inhumanity towards others precisely because of our connection through that common humanity.

Everyone is welcome to attend services on Remembrance Sunday or Armistice Day

Richard